In today’s installment of “How Not to Respond to a Breach,” we give you Paterson Public Schools

From the for-the-love-of-a-free-press-would-someone-PLEASE-teach-these-people-about-the-first-amendment? dept.

Earlier this week, this site noted reporting by Paterson Times about an alleged breach involving the Paterson Public Schools in New Jersey.  We also picked up a follow-up report that covered some… um…unexpected claims by the District as to how many threat actors might be involved and whether it was a former employee, and…. a whole bunch of other claims that seemed premature, at best.  Usually, entities shut up and say they are investigating.  Paterson Public Schools seems to have decided to take another approach that is not adverse to making themselves look inexperienced at handling a data security incident.

And now they are providing students and their community with an embarrassing example of what happens when the district is ignorant about the First Amendment and laws protecting journalists and responsible journalism.

Today, the Paterson Times reports:

After a news story exposed a massive data breach at the Paterson Public Schools, superintendent Eileen Shafer threatened to sue the Paterson Times for purported “serious reputational harm” to the school district, a lawsuit that would be prohibited by law. The letter also suggested the district would use legal means to obtain materials related to the breach held by the Times, which would be prohibited by the state’s reporter’s shield law.

Shafer issued her threat in a letter signed by the district’s attorney Robert E. Murray. Her spokesman Paul Brubaker emailed the letter at 4:42 p.m. on Monday, 52 minutes after the story appeared on the frontpage of the newspaper website.

“This is serious reputational harm to the entire school district. Thus, a civil court action must be pursued,” reads Murray’s letter. He asserts the breach, which claimed more than 23,000 account passwords and was not detected until the Paterson Times brought it to the district’s attention, has caused the school system to be “unfairly held out for ridicule in the community.”

Read more on the Paterson Times.

The basis for  any ridicule of the district is the district’s response to the reported or alleged breach. They have repeatedly been shooting themselves in the foot and need to get a real professional in there to handle incident response properly.  Their claims, demands, and legal threats  are, to put it bluntly, bullshit, and should be called out as such.

How sad that those with the responsibility of educating our youth seem to be totally ignorant about the First Amendment.  Hopefully, the Paterson Times’ lawyers will hand them a clue stick.

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